Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm Calling BS

A company that used to have a contract with Florida to provide monitoring services for its parolees just lost its bid to re-up on its contract. They were underbid by BI, Inc., a company that the GEO Group purchased about a month ago. BI undercut the company's proposal by nearly 50% per monitoring device, which could be reflect the fact that BI's system has major operational problems that resulted in an 11-hour blackout just a few months ago in a different jurisdiction.

Regardless, the whole contract procurement process reeks of corruption and Pro Tech, the company that was underbid by BI, has filed a complaint. BI released a statement saying "This was an open and proper procurement process. … We are confident in our proposal and our ability to provide quality GPS tracking services at a competitive price."

I'm calling BS on this. BI got this contract because of the GEO Group's long and deep-rooted relationship with Florida politics. The GEO Group is based in Boca Raton, and has not only sent industry leaders to government positions; it also donates heavily to state legislators. Their influence was quite obvious in last year's last-second attempt to force the state to populate a GEO prison that was built on speculative information in the first place. This is simply another exmample of the types of political favors the private prison industry enjoys as a result of its powerful lobbying work.

To make it very clear: the GEO Group contributed $25,000 to the governor's campaign last year. Pro Tech has only contributed a little over $7,000 to all Floridian legislators and candidates since 2002. That right there is the deciding factor in who won, and who lost, this contract.

UPDATE: Turns out this isn't the only shady business practice employed by a GEO subsidiary. BI, Inc. is being sued for patent infringement by another private monitoring company whose technology they stole. I'm thinking more and more that GEO's acquisition of BI makes perfect sense


  1. Mike

    First of all, there's a typo in your first paragraph: "which could be reflect."

    Second of all, why are you playing favorites among private CJ vendors? Aren't they both for profit companies?

    Thirdly, many government procurement codes heavily favor the vendor with the lowest project cost. It is just flat out preposterous to say that a procurement official chose a bidder who could save the state a 50% premium because of campaign donations, when many procurement officials are obligated to select the lowest bidder by law itself.

    Finally, recognize that remote monitoring is a good thing if it saves money over incarceration and allows people who would otherwise be incarcerated to live with their families and maintain strong bonds. If you hate on the companies that provide this service, you are hating on what many people see as a very positive opportunity. Realize that when you hate on it, you are also hating on companies that are probably *supporting* government decisionmakers who are reducing the level of incarceration in this country. If you are waiting for government agencies to take over this responsibility in total, you are only going to delay the reduction in the incarceration rate. That may be your aim, but I strongly doubt it.


    The Non-ideological You

  2. I'm not playing favorites among vendors in the CJS. I hate all of them. It would have been tough to have people go to

    they're all terrible. they all have serious deficiencies in practically every area of operations. many of your assumptions are incorrect however.

    first, they don't provide a service and many studies have shown they offer little to no cost savings over government-operated facilities. just click on the "no cost savings" tag to see a few examples.

    second, many prisoners in private prisons are housed out-of-state, as private prison companies fill beds on facilities that cost less to maintain. California ships tens of thousands of prisoners to out-of-state private facilities; I know that vermont, Hawaii, Alaska, and many others do as well. the prisoners go to wherever they can be ouhsed cheapest, which unfortunately often means with the lowest quality of staff and facility.

    to claim that private prison companies support government decision-makers who are looking to lower the levels of incarceration in this country is just flat-out wrong. CCA and GEO have both worked for the past few decades through a group called ALEC< which promotes conservative legislation in various state legislatures. they have been intimiately involved in the passage of legislation that has contributed to our incaceration rates, such as SB1070 in Arizona (click the tag), mandatory minimums, and three-strikes laws in California and elsewhere. In terms of contributions and lobbying, most of that money goes to republicans who are primarily responsible for "tough-on-crime" legislation that was popular from the 80s on. private prison companies absolutely contribute to our rates of incarceration, and donate heavily to politicians who do the same.

    governments ran our prison systems for decades, more successfully and more humanely than private prisons are currently run. governments don't seek a profit from incarcerating people, a motivation that invariably leads to cutting services, care, and treatment to maximize the profit margin.

    Finally, to say that many people see incarcerating other human beings for profit i feel is an exaggeration. i often find that people don't know of the very existence of the private prison industry, let alone its size and scope.

    but regardless of people's knowledge of this industry's existence, I think it's sick to incarcerate humans for profit. sick. despicable, abhorrent, and disgusting. It's as sick and perverse as private military contractors. I despise the mere fact that people see other humans as a commodity, which is what prisoners have become. it's a gross and vile industry, but more importantly, it's a function that is inherent to the government. in a society such as ours, which promotes itself as a free one, there is no place for money to be made on locking people up and denying them medical care.

    we're never going to reduce our rates of incarceration while there's money to be made in doing the exact opposite.

    I just really hate it.

  3. Crazy Mike

    What is this rant about? Your post ("I'm calling BS") isn't about private prisons. Your post links to an article about parolee monitoring.

    Companies that provide remote monitoring of parolees are SEEKING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES TO PROVIDE REMOTE MONITORING OF PAROLEES! So, of course they are supporting decision makers who want to release people on parole and have them monitored remotely.

    Your screed above, written without any reference to the source post that YOU WROTE, just proves the point that you are so ideological that you don't even know which post I'm commenting on!

    And you are favoring one CJ company over another. Why? Because one is a subsidiary of GEO, which also runs private prisons, and one is not!

    GEO has reduced you to a frustrated pile of self contradictory rubble by simultaneously offering both detention and parole services.


    The Completely Non-ideological You

  4. i am fully aware of what I'm writing about, thank you. BI Inc was purchased by the GEO Group around the same time they won this contract in GEO's home state. My point is that GEO's connections in the Florida legislature helped them get the contract.

    but the point remains the same. it's improper for people to profit from providing "incarceration" or even "monitoring services". some functions by their very nature ought to be performed by governments, not private companies. Given GEO's track record, I have no faith in BI or even Pro Tech to provide government-quality monitoring services. I wanted to highlight one of many shady business practices employed by prison privateers.

    to put it simply, I favor no criminal justice company. none. no profit should be made in the criminal justice system. there are some functions of society that aren't improved by privatization, despite what rand paul or others might tell you.

    and no you're not me, non-ideological or otherwise. i try to respect people even if I disagree with them

  5. and putting people on parole may lower our technical rate of incarceration, but it keeps static or increases our rate of adults under criminal jusitce supervision, which is a problem. and again, an area that should not be privatized.

  6. Hi there. Great site! I was told there was a lawsuit between BI, Inc. and Pro-Tech. Do you know the status of that lawsuit? Much obliged for any information (if it is still ongoing, which county, case number, who is winning, etc.). Thank you again. Sincerely, JLS

  7. Hey anon - I'm looking into it, but so far I haven't seen anything. I do see that ProTech got sold to 3M, and is now 3M electronic monitoring services. I'm going to continue to hunt over the weekend and will post anything I find here. but if you don't hear back for the next few days, don't think I've forgotten or neglected you.

  8. Hey Anon

    So I have not been able to come across any lawsuits between B.I. Inc and Pro-Tech. However, I have found in my research that patent lawsuits between companies that provide monitoring services are apparently rather common. Here's a link to an article about a lawsuit filed against BI by an alcohol monitoring service, SCRAMx:

    Also, immediately after BI underbid Pro-Tech, Pro-Tech filed a complaint against BI in the state of Florida. That can be found here, but it's a bit hard to find (try using the find function and searching "BI Inc"):

    Finally, here's a listing of some patent cases that have involved BI and ProTech, along with Elmo Tech, which was acquired by 3m with the Attenti group acquisition (which brought them ProTech)

    I hope some of this helps. Sorry I couldn't find the particular lawsuit you were looking for